A professional photograph of Australian opera singer Molly de Gunst. Photo: contributed
A professional photograph of Australian opera singer Molly de Gunst. Photo: contributed contributed

Molly de Gunst - Bundy's other famous opera singer

ONE of Australia's most famous opera singers was born in Bundaberg on June 25, 1905.

Molly de Gunst later attended South Bundaberg State School, and even then she showed signs of having a fine voice.

Just before her 18th birthday in 1923 she auditioned with Madam Ellen Christian at the Garcia School of Music in Sydney and was accepted as a resident pupil.

Australian opera singer Molly de Gunst in Bundaberg at the age of 11. Photo: contributed
Australian opera singer Molly de Gunst in Bundaberg at the age of 11. Photo: contributed contributed

It was de Gunst's custom to return to Bundaberg every December and January and on December 4, 1925 she gave a recital in the city.

In one of her Bundaberg concerts she included At Evening, a song composed by Gertrude Concannon, of Maryborough, who went on to study music in New York.

From December 1927 to 1937 de Gunst appeared as the soprano soloist for almost every performance of the Messiah in Sydney.

In 1932 J C Williamson brought an Italian opera company to Australia.

Before Mr Williamson's representative went to Italy to select principal performers had had chosen De Gunst as an understudy in certain roles.

On April 18, 1932 she was called at short notice to play the leading role in Aida.

On returning from New Zealand with the opera company, De Gunst decided to stay in Australia, where she was in demand for oratorio, radio broadcasts and concert tours.

When she eventually went to England she spent her summer holidays with her cousin Jan de Gunst and his family in Rotterdam.

From 1933 to 1935 De Gunst gave recitals ranging from Cairns to Perth, and appeared as a soloist in oratorios and broadcasts for the ABC.

On October 21, 1936 she made her debut in Aida at Sadlers Wells in London.

After her appearance in Tannhauser in 1939 she married Gordon Lark.

Towards the end of the Second World War her husband was transferred to Newcastle and they had to sell their London home.

In Newcastle de Gunst worked for the Council for the Encouragement of Music and Arts to promote music, clubs and activities in the Northumberland and Durham areas.

In 1954 a serious dental operation ended her singing career and she turned to the promotion of chamber music, making every effort to introduce this to wider audiences.

With the death of her friend Jean Cross in 1993 she became the sole survivor of the pre-war Sadlers Wells Opera Company.

No reliable recorded evidence remains of her fine voice.

De Gunst died on May 29, 1994.